Do you feel a sense of foreboding emanating from the words, “Barcelona tips and tricks“?
No, I’m not referring to some hidden pheromone in this Barcelona travel guide that will bring all the boys to the yard, without any use of my milkshake.
Okay yeah, that was probably not the sage list of Barcelona travel dos and don’ts that you were hoping for.
Quickly moving away (or running) from the weirdness.
What I’m trying to say rather crapily is that my Barcelona vacation recommendations are based on the fact that my Barcelona trip was one giant disaster.
I loved the vibrant nightlife that I found at some of the amazing party hostels in Barcelona.
Barcelona just didn’t seem to love me back ( I probably would have been much better off if I had read some of these Spain travel tips before I visited Barcelona, but I digress).
Everything that could go wrong during my trip to Bareclona did.
I’ve created this list of Barcelona travel tips. I want you to read about my Barcelona vacation of doom, laugh at my stupidity, and learn from all of my mistakes so that your Barcelona vacation is infirinitely better than my own!
Without further ado, my comprehensive list of Barcelona tips; tips that will help you to make the most out of your very first (or second) Barcelona vacation.
Since I am incapable of making it rain money, there’s a high chance that this post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure for more information. As an Amazon Associate, I earn a small commission from qualifying purchases.
***Let me guess, you’re planning a trip to Barcelona and have no idea where to stay? Yup, I’ve soo been there. That’s why I created an entire post about some of the best hotels in Barcelona, Spain. But, if you’re short on time and want the abridged version of this post, then check out Hostel One Paralelo if you’re on a budget Not only are the comfortable, custom-designed pod beds here just $30 per night, but this hostel is also centrally located and has a fantastic, communal atmosphere that makes you feel right at home, especially if you’re traveling solo in Barcelona. However, if you’re looking for something a bit more upscale, then check out Eco Boutique Hostal Grau. And if hostels aren’t your thing, not to worry because hostal in Spanish actually means boutique hotel. Which is exactly what you get at this well-appointed hotel off of Las Ramblas, where rooms start at just $100 per night. But, if you’re a total BALLER and really wanna take your Barcelona travel experience to the NEXT LEVEL, then check out Hilton Diagonal Mar, a SWANK AF hotel in Sant Marti with a rooftop beach club, an all you can eat breakfast buffet, and a plethora of gorgeous rooms that are all within walking distance of the beach. Seriously, it does not get much better than that!***
1. Barcelona is NOT the place for a politcal debate.
In case you’re not in the know (because I sure wasn’t during my first trip to Spain), Barcelona is the capital of Catalunya, a region in Spain that has been looking to obtain independence for years.
And while I don’t know much about the political situation here:
What I do know is that Catalunya is one of the wealthiest regions in Spain.
As a result:
The Spanish government likes to take some of the money from this area and redistribute it among some of the poorer parts of the country.
As you can imagine, Catalunya is none too happy about this. And while this is deinitely not the only reason behind the independence movement ihere, it is a contributing factor and something you shoul be aware of during your Barcelona vacation.
The political situation in Barcelona can become extremely tense. Like, you could cut the tension with a knife type of tense.
The first rule of Barcelona travel is that we do not talk about politics while IN Barcelona.
I never do since I don’t know enough about the situation here to have an intelligent conversation about the topic.
If the political situation here does come up in converstaion, be sure to choose your words wisely since you definitly don’t want to start your Barcelona vacation off by accidently offending a local.
It’s never a good look when you’re a guest in someone’s country and, whoops, open your mouth, only to end up totally offending an entire city of people.
Yup, talk about a Barcelona Travel FAIL.
You can also get more insider advice about traveling to Spain if you check out any one of these best books on Spain.
2. Try and Blend in with the Locals
Here in America:
We value individualism and the right to be as weird as you want, rainbow-colored hair and all.
And while I applaud this and unequivocally say, “Bring on the weirdness”, this characteristic is not a virtue when traveling to Barcelona.
They don’t have some cultural aversion to individuality.
Rather, pickpockets are rampant throughout Barcelona.
Anything you can do to help yourself blend in and look a little less like a tourist will, as a result, help draw a potential pickpocket’s attention away from you.
Trust me on this one. This is probably one of my most important Barlceona travel tips.
I mean, I wore a neon green fleece and carried a bright pink backpack; almost as though I was carrying a vibrantly colored, neon sign that said to all criminals within a 500 meter radius, “Hi! Plunder me! Rich American Walking!”.
So blend in and your Barcelona vacation will go infiinitely better than mine.
Which brings me to my next Barcelona travel tip…
***Not sure how to blend in and dress like a local? Then check out my Barcelona packing list and style guide. It’s filled with secret tips that will help you look and feel like a super savvy local.***
3. Don’t Carry All Your Cash and Credit Cards with you
Whether you’re strolling through the city or enjoying one of the many awesome day trips from Barcelona, for the love of God and all that is holy, do not carry all of your cash and credit cards with you as you travel Barcelona.
This is perhaps one of the BIGGEST Barcelona travel mistakes that I made.
As you can probably guess, my wallet was not so surprisingly stolen during my very, Barcelona trip, right as I was walking through the metro.
I had gotten too complacent after having no real travel problems while exploring Asia and South America.
I stupidly thought that I was impervious to any and all travel disasters.
I ended up carrying almost the entire contents of my wallet with me as I was walking through the city.
So, moral of the story?
Don;t be a silly goose like me.
Listen to my slightly sage, Barcelona travel advice and always leave some of your cash, as well as some of your debit/credit cards, SAFELY (sorry, but that pun was just there, calling my name) tucked away in the safe, back at your hotel.
Because I promise:
You do NOT want to spend one of your precious Barcelona vacation days frantically calling your bank, begging them to send you money.
Yeah, I guarentee that this chore is even more anti-fun than it sounds.
4. Don’t Rush Through Everything
Look, I get it:
If you’re American like me then you get MAYBE two weeks of solid vacation time per year.
Your natural inclination is to rush around and see as much as humanly possible during your trip to Barcelona.
Yeah, don’t do that
Instead, think of the overly cliched phrase, “Quality over Quantity”, which holds true for any Barcelona vacation.
Because there are so many exciting things to see and do in Barcelona, if you rush around from one activity to the next, you’ll never really get to appreciate it all and understand what this city is really like.
So, take a deep breath, Namastay it up, and go slowly.
You could also take some time during your Barcelona itinerary to stroll through either Park Güell, Parc del Laberint d’Horta, or Montjuïc, all of which are amazing locations in Barcelona that are just waiting to be explored.
You could always just sit on a bench, enjoy a nice cup of coffee from Onna Cafe, (Or Satan’s Coffee Corner or SKYE Coffee Co, since these places are some of the best cafes in Barcelona), and admire your beautiful surroundings.
The more time you take to fully appreciate the stunning, architectural marvels all around you, the more likely you are to enjoy ( and not just rush through) the time that you do have in Barcelona.
5. Take Some Time to Enjoy One of Barcelona’s Many, Beautiful Beaches
Take time to enjoy the natural beauty fo Barcelona’s many beaches.
After sprinting from one Gaudi architectural wonder to the next, I totally forget that Barcelona has some truly incredible beaches.
So as an afterthought:
I kind of rushed to the beach, sat for five minutes, and rushed back. Yeah, not one of the great Barcelona trip highlights.
Take some time to relax at the beach and not run through it like you’re ticking something off your to-do list.
Keep a close eye on your belongings while at the beach. Some of my friends have had their passports stolen because they left their bag on the beach while they were in the water.
***Over the past couple of years, Barceloneta Beach has become totally oversaturated with tourists and street vendors who are constantly hounding you to buy something. Therefore, I’d suggest skipping this beach alothgether and going to one of Barcelona’s smaller beaches instead. Now, because Mar Bella Beach is a nudist beach filled with couples and Sant Miquel is packed with people, I’d opt for either Nova Icaria Beach (just 25 minutes from the city center), Bogatell Beach (a quieter, older crowd), Ocata Beach, Caldetes Beach, St Pol de Mar Beach, or Castelldefels Beach instead.***
6. Pay Attention at Barcelona Airport
So this is one of my more embarrassing Barcelona tips but whatever.
I’ll sacrifice what little dignity I have for the greater good.
When I was flying home from Barcelona, Spain:
I was insanely early for my night flight because well, I have horrendous anxiety and if I don’t arrive like three hours early, I’ll have a panic attack.
So I killed time by shopping and walking through the terminal.
Finally, after what seemed like forever, it was time to board my flight so I strolled over to my terminal and prepared to board.
Or so I thought…
In reality, I had inadvertently walked out of the airport when I misread a sign.
I dashed upstairs, threw my bag through security, raced to the gate, and made it just in time.
So glad this happened late at night when the airport was a veritable ghost town.
So pay attention to signage in the airport. And if you’re confused:
Don’t be scared to ask for help. The staff is there to assist you as you naviga through the airport.
Me? I let my social anxiety take over, didn’t ask for help, and paid the price.
Talk about a travel fail of Titanic proportions! Haha. I love me a super lame pun. Woot!
7. Don’t Eat on Las Ramblas
This one is kind of obvious but clearly, people make this mistake since there are a ton of tourist traps, I mean restaurants, along Las Ramblas.
But Las Ramblas is a must see and the MOST visited street in all of Barcelona.
So it makes sense that for convenience sake, people would eat here.
But don’t. It’s a trap.
The food is insanely overpriced and the quality is no bueno (not the place to find the best restaurants in Barcelona, Spain.
But how can you tell if a restaurant is a tourist trap?
Do you see a man speaking English and holding an English menu, beckoning you inside? If so then this restaurant is probably a tourist trap.
My rule of thumb:
If the menu comes in five different languages and there are no locals to be found inside then get out! It’s a trap.
The more locals and the less English, the better.
***Some of my favorite restaurants in Barcelona, Spain include Chiringuito Ananda is a great spot to eat on the beach, Jatachi is a must for great Asian food in Barcelona, Can Massis for great vegetarian menus (they have a great three-course menu of the day for €12.90), and La Milanesa Braseria & Cotoletteria & Pizzeria for great Italian food (non-touristy and a three-course menu for €18.90).***
8. Don’t Book Flights to Barcelona, Spain with the Destination “Reus (Barcelona)” or “Girona (Barcelona)”
A beautiful view of the Barcelona skyline.
This is a mistake that I would make, oh wait, I did, only in Milan, not Barcelona.
A lot of times, travelers will attempt to book cheap flights to Barcelona via Ryanair.
And that’s totally fine.
The problem arises when you try to book your tickets because you can choose from three airports that are supposedly in Barcelona; “El Prat Llobregat (Barcelona)”, “Reus (Barcelona)” and “Girona (Barcelona)”.
Stay far away from flights to Reus and Girona!
Both of these airports are well over a hundred kilometers away from Barcelona. So transport costs to the REAL Barcelona will probably offset any money that you save on the flight.
Always try and fly into El Prat, the real Barcelona, Spain airport.
You can easily and cheaply take either the Aerobus to the city center.
9. Stay Away from the Bus Turistic
The hop on, hop off bus sounds great right?
I mean, one bus that drives you to every major tourist attraction in Barcelona. Pretty awesome right?
First of all, the traffic in Barcelona is cray cray. As a result, you’ll spend most of your time touring Barcelona on the bus, praying that the traffic will clear.
The cost of the bus ticket is insanely expensive at €27.00 for an adult, one day ticket, and €36.00 for an adult, two-day ticket.
And even if there is no traffic, there’s no way that you can adequately see all the top Barcelona attractions along the bus route in just two days.
But it’s not gonna happen.
Purchase a single ride metro ticket for €2.20 (if you want a single ride to the airport, that ticket costs €4.60 or €9.20 roundtrip).
An even cheaper option is the T-10 ticket that offers you 10 rides in one zone for €10.20 (does not include a trip to the airport).
***Another cheap option is the HOLA BCN 2 – 5-day travel card. This card gives you unlimited rides on the metro, including trips to and from the airport, and costs €35.00 for five days (or €7.00 a day). A pretty sweet deal. The Barcelona card also gives you unlimited rides on Barcelona public transportation. ***
10. Don’t Forget to Haggle
Use these Barcelona tips and I know that you’ll love Barcelona almost as much as I do.
Truth be told:
I’m crap at haggling. Somehow I always feel guilty when asking to pay less than the suggested price.
That and I hate talking to strangers. Part of my socially awkward charm I suppose.
But in Barcelona, Haggling is a THING. So for total novices like me:
Here are some simple Barcelona tips to help you haggle successfully.
Pretend you really like an item, and fawn over it until you get the sales person’s attention.
Ask about the price.
Tell them that i’s just too expensive, and hopefully, they’ll lower the price.
At which point:
You proclaim that it’s still too expensive and walk away.
If the salesperson comes after you, BOOM, you’ll get an epic deal.
Pssh, no worries. There are plenty of shops out there. A for effort though!
***One of the best places to practice all of this haggling is at Els Encants Vells Flea Market. Stop by this two-story shopping center and you’ll find an eclectic mix of vintage goods that include clothes, paintings, jewelry, and more. Just be prepared to dig, especially since there is a lot of, well, junk that you’ll need to sort through if you want to find any well-hidden gems.***
11. Take Barcelona’s Aerobus to and from the Airport
Skip the expensive taxi. Not only will it cost you €30, but the price can go up on weekends, holidays, and at night.
And if you’re hotel is located in the old city center, your taxi may not even be able to get to your hotel.
For about €5, hop on the blue Aerobus and in about 25 minutes, BOOM, you’ll be in the center of Barcelona, in Plaça Catalunya.
There are also stops along the way at Plaça d’Espanya and Plaça Universitat.
The Aerobus operates between 6 a.m. to 1 a.m., with a bus departing every five minutes.
You’ll never have to worry about long waits for the bus since a new bus is always just around the corner, literally.
12. Buy Tickets to Major Barcelona Attractions in Advance
But it can be difficult to see all of Barcelona’s major attractions when everyone, including their cousin’s, brother’s dog, wants to visit these places and is standing in line with you.
To save time, and your sanity, one of my top Barcelona tips is to buy tickets for all major attractions, online and in advance.
When you arrive, you can skip the painfully long line and frolic right inside, while all the suckers in line give you the death stare.
***For La Sagrada Familia in particuliar, I would definitely try to book your ticket online at least 3 days in advance. I mean, you don’t want to go ALL the way to Barcelona, just to realize that you won’t actiually be able to see one of the TOP attractions in all of Spain? Am I right? Of course I am! And while you’re at, you may want to splurge and join a La Sagrada Familia tour, just so that you can learn a bit more about the building and get a better appreciation for and understanding of what you’re actually seeing. Plus, I mean, the tour really ins’t THAT much more expensive than a regular, skip the line ticket since the tour and fast track, entrance ticket cost $46, while the fast track ticket alone costs $34.78.***
13. Make the Most of FREE Museum Sundays
Why not take advantage of their generosity and put a little culture into your life?
I mean sure:
The crowds may be a bit larger, but it’s totally worth it since any money that you save, can be spent on infinitely more important things, like FOOD.
Yup, I know where my priotities lie.
14. Learn How to Tip in Barcelona
Unlike in the States, where tipping anything less than 20% is practically criminal, tipping in Barcelona is NOT mandatory.
As a result:
Tipping really isn’t expected in most situations. However, most people do leave a 10% tip at restaurants and round up when riding a taxi.
But other than that, you can save the tipping for when you get back home.
15. Learn Some Catalan and speak up when you need something
So Spanish and Catalan are NOT the same thing.
Because believe it or not:
Barcelona has two official languages, Catalan and Spanish.
And while everyone does speak Spanish:
Catalan is more often used throughout the day, like at the grocery store or aboard public transportation.
Learning a few essential, Catalan phrases is definitely one of my more important, Barcelona tips.
You can ask for the bill when you want to leave a restaurant since, like in most of Europe, the waiter won’t bring you the check unless you specifically ask for it.
Knowing Catalan is also useful since waiters in Barcelona are not as attentive as those in the States.
They won’t really engage with you unless you actually tell them that you need something.
So brush up on your Catalan and make your trip to Barcelona a whole lot easier.
16. Join a Free Walking Tour
I hate to break it to you, but Barcelona isn’t exactly the cheapest city on the planet.
One of the best ways to explore Barcelona, for a whole lot less, is through a free, Barcelona walking tour.
Not only do tours like this help orient you to the city, but it’s also a great way to meet an awesome local, who is full of super secret tips on what to do and where to eat while in this magical city.
Most tour guides who lead these type of tours actually work for tips alone, allowing you to tip as much, or as little, as you like, depending on the quality of the tour.
Do be kind (Cough..and generous) since most of these people work really hard for their money and probably don’t make all that much.
But the question remains:
What free, Barcelona walking tour should you join?
Well, I’m so glad you asked!
Personally, I did a free, Runner Beans Tour and absolutely loved it. The tour I went on was two and a half hours long and took me to all of the top, Gaudi, architectural sites in the city.
My guide was super knowledgable and explained the full history of the Catalan Modernist movement and how Gaudi became such an integral part of this exciting new way at looking at Catalan culture.
This specific tour departs daily, from the water fountain at Plaça Reialat, at 11 am and 4.30 pm, with no 4:30 pm tour available throughout the winter (To cut down on walking, this tour does include several trips on the metro, so be prepared with some extra change. Also prbook this tour online since it is free and as a result, quite popular).
If you’re not super into Gaudi and his architecture, you can always try their history of the Gothic tour, which takes you through Barcelona’s imortal, Gothic Quarter.
***Some of the other fantastic, free walking tour companies in Barcelona include Sandeman’s New Europe, Free Walking Tours BCN, Feel Free Walking Tours, Travel Bar, Be Local Tours, and Barcelona Street Style Tour, (this is a Barcelona, street art tour).***
17. Enjoy Some of the City’s Amazing, Panoramic Views!
I LOVE Bunkers del Carmel (AKA Bunkers Barcelona)!
Not only are the panoramic views here STUNNING (Trust me, they really are 360 degrees!), but this fantastic Barcelona viewpoint actually has a unique history since it was once used as a military stronghold and lookout point for enemy aircraft during the Spanish civil war.
You’re more likely to see Instagram obsessed, Kambucha loving Millennials coughing up a lung as the make the arduous climb up Turó de la Rovira, to Bunkers del Carmel.
However, once at the top:
You’ll forget all about the steep climb as you enjoy exquisite views of Spain’s seemingly, neverending coast, Tibidabo Theme Park, and the ever beautiful, La Sagrada Familia.
And while this view point is amazing:
t’s definitely not the only place in Barcelona where you can get a stunning view of the city.
For other, super stellar, aerial views of this ever enchanting city, stop by Montjuic (once at the top, you can take the cable car down to Barceloneta Beach), Park Guell, and Tibidabo (You can take the funicular to the top and avoid the high price of the theme park by staying on the viewing platform).
18. Take a Hard Pass on the Sangria
My heart almost broke when I first learned the sad truth, but it’s 100% true,
Because while many people typically associate Spain with copious amounts of Sangria (I know I did), the truth is that in Barcelona, Sangria really isn’t a drink that people typically order at the bar.
They might brew some up while they’re hanfing out at home, but when it comes to chiling with their friends at a restuarant, locals typically order either a Casera (more commonly known as vermouth to my fellow Americans) a glass of gin, or a Cava (a local sparkling wine).
If you do order a Sangria from one of those overly touristy restaurants along Las Ramblas, expect an overpirced, insanely sugary drink that is made with nothing but the cheapest of wines.
Yeah, definitely not the “authentic” experience that I think you were going for.
***Not sure where to get your drinky drank on while in Barcelona? Then check out Paradiso (Hidden behind a fridge door inside a pastrami shop in El Born, expect over the top service, beautiful drinks, and seasonal delights with ingredients from Santa Caterina market), Carribean Club (A quirky, nautical themed bar with an assortment of tropical cocktails that feature a whole lot of rum), Solange Cocktails and Luxury Spirits (An upscale, James Bond themed bar with fruitty drinks that are “shaken, not stirred”), and The Bowery (a bar where the only thing crazier than the cocktails are the alien like glasses that all of your drinks are served in).***
19. Get to Know Barcelona’s Unofficial Schedule
When traveling to Barcelona:
Say goodbye to quick, noon lunches and prompt, 6 pm dinners.
Sorry but this isn’t an episode of the Golden Birls and that just ain’t gonna happen here.
Because beleive it or not:
Most restaurants in Barcelona don’t even start serving lunch until 1 pm, at the absolute earliest.
Well, don’t expect to be getting that any time before 8 pm since locals tend to enjoy dinner late into the evening, at least by my Puritanical, early bird, American standards.
Oh and siesta?
Yup, that’s a very real thing. Therefore, expect most local buisnesses to be closed between the hours of 1 pm and 4:30 pm, minus most major attractions, which don’t really have a siesta.
That being said, all of the above times are general guidelines and not steadfast rules.
Always check an individual buisness’s hours of operation before visiting. This way, you won’t show up, just to find everythig totally closed.
I’ve done that more times than I can count and it totally sucks.
20. Get into Parc Guell for FREE!
“I love throwing my money away and doing battle with selfie-stick wielding tourists, just to reclaim a litte bit of my own, personal space,” said no one ever.
I am beyond delighted to inform you that you can actually get into Parc Guell for absolutely nothing!
Pretty amazing right?
All you have to do is stop by outside of normal visiting hours and you can totally get inside for free, no Spiderman-esq, wall scaling necessary (PSST: The Park’s hours do change seasonally so be sure to check their website before you visit)!
I’d suggest visiting around sunrise, as opposed to sunset, since not only will the Park be totally devoid of people, but you’ll also enjoy absolutely amazing, Golden Hour lighting that will be perfect, just in case you need to snap a few photos for the GRAM!
21. Don’t Forget Your Travel Insurance
This isn’t exactly the most original Barcelona tip on this list.
It’s essential none the less, especially since you never really know when life is gonna get super lifey on you.
Kind of Like that time when, WHOOPS, I sliced my thumb open and needed two stitches about four hours before my flight to London.
Good times, good times.
And added awesomeness?
It was the holiday season, so there was no way in hell that I was gonna get another flight out of NYC for anything less than like 10 billion dollars.
And yes, that’s an EXACT figure.
So moral of my painfully, long-winded story? Never leave home without travel insurance!
I know and love World Nomads travel insurance.
Not only do they make it beyond easy to file a claim, but they also cover just about any destination that you can think of, minus slightly offbeat places like Pakistan.
They offer a fantastic level of coverage that includes almost any travel disaster (minus alien abduction) imaginable, have policies that are easy to customize, and will even allow you to extend or change your policy while you’re away from home!
Seriously, what’s not to love?
The only way it could get better is if it were free! SIGH.
Even if you don’t go with World Nomads, be sure to purchase some sort of travel insurance and protect yourself against property loss or a medical emergency while you’re in Barcelona.
If you do end up using World Nomads, be sure to purchase the Basic Plan if your gear is worth less than $1000 and the Explorer Plan if your gear is worth more than $1000. Yeah, this is essentially the only difference between the two plans since both plans include $100,000 worth of medical coverage.